Paddleboats will return to Red WingThe boats are back in town. Or at least they will be.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
The boats are back in town. Or at least they will be.
After a two-year hiatus, the iconic paddleboats will be making stops in Red Wing again this fall, just in time for leafing season.
“It’s a nice piece of business and it’s good for the community,” said Mike Wilson, owner of Wilson Oil. “It’s a good shot in the arm for Red Wing when they come.”
Wilson has been supplying the paddleboats that pass by Red Wing with fuel for about 25 years.
“We just happen to have the equipment and training,” he said. “It’s a specialty portion of our business.”
In the past, Wilson used to refuel the boats in St. Paul using a fuel flat. But now he has the boats stop in Red Wing to restock their tanks.
“It’s just a good spot to ship it too. It’s a lot handier for them too,” Wilson said.
This year, the American Queen, a 400-passenger boat based out of Memphis, Tenn., will dock in Levee Park nine times from late September to early November, the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau said.
The brand new Queen of the Mississippi, which carries 150 passengers and hails from St. Louis, will dock four times from September to October.
Wilson said the larger boat will take up between 40,000 to 50,000 gallons of fuel, which the boat orders about a week in advance of its arrival. The fuel is then brought into Red Wing by truck and pumped directly from the truck into the boat.
Each truck takes about 45 minutes to unload, Wilson said. And, with the largest boat needing about six to seven truckloads of fuel, that gives the hundreds of passengers on board ample time to get out of their cabins and wander through downtown.
“They pile off the boat. The big influx of people all at once, it brings a lot of energy to downtown,” said Red Wing Downtown Main Street President John Becker. “It’s really impressive.”
The boats are usually on the tail ends of their journeys by the time they get to Red Wing, Becker said, resulting in many of the passengers anxious to get off the boat and stretch their legs. And, he added, those passengers are usually perfect customers for many of the downtown merchants.
“They want, typically, a small artifact from the community; there’s not a lot of room in the cabins. For a lot of merchants downtown, it’s perfect for the type of inventory that they carry,” he said.
Becker said that while the American Queen’s and Queen of the Mississippi’s dockings are a ways off, Downtown Main Street will have some sort of promotion to go along with the boats’ arrivals — coupons, gift baskets or something similar.
“We’re very, very excited,” he said. “We will have something in place.”
Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau reports that paddlewheelers will dock in Levee Park on the following dates:
American Queen: Sept. 20 and 22; Oct. 4, 6, 18, 21, and 23; and Nov. 4 and 6.
Queen of the Mississippi: Twice in September and twice in October.
For more information, call 800-498-3444.